How the Town of Okotoks Became a Leader in Conserving Water

By Matt Beauchamp, Content Contributor for CRP

When it was first developed in 2002, the Okotoks Water Management Plan established – what was then considered – bold water conservation targets. At the time many communities in southern Alberta were not concerned with water quantities in the region.

From 2002 to 2006 the Plan managed to lower daily per capita water usage from 465 L per person/per day to 333 L per person/per day.

In 2006 the Alberta government created a moratorium on new water licenses on the South Saskatchewan River Basin – Okotoks main water supply – which created a unique water supply situation for a town that was experiencing rapid population growth.

Fast forward to 2014 and Okotoks is coming off a year where daily per capita water usage is down to 273 L per person/per day. A goal the new Water Conservation, Efficiency, and Productivity Plan (CEP) strives to continue.

Preparing for Growth

Okotoks-CEP-optimized-300x298_f_improf_300x298However, Okotoks has reached its water license capacity and for this vibrant town to continue to grow, new water solutions need to be found.

It’s because of this water license capacity that the Town of Okotoks has entered into early phase negotiations with the City of Calgary on a regional system that would see the town get supplemental water from the Bow River basin.
This supplemental water would allow Okotoks sustainable growth for the next 5o years and beyond.

“(The regional system is) Long term, hopefully for the next 50-60 years of growth,” said Dawn Smith, Sustainability Coordinator with the Town of Okotoks.

However, until an agreement with the City of Calgary is reached and the regional system is set up, Okotoks development will only be able to go so far.

“We’re procuring more short term licenses for interim growth until long term options are available,” said Smith.
A sentiment echoed by Okotoks Mayor Bill Robertson.

“Certainly … our backs are against the wall in terms of the lack of water for future growth. We have water for a couple thousand more people after that we’ll be out of water,” said Robertson.

Regional collaboration working

For Mayor Robertson, the work the Calgary Regional Partnership (CRP) has been doing on the Calgary Metropolitan Plan (CMP) is an important aspect to this process.

“It’s been proposed that they (the City of Calgary) offer a template for making sure that communities that are applying to tie into the City of Calgary water system meet all the criteria for being signatories or supportive of the Calgary Metropolitan Plan,” said Robertson. “So that’s sort of the template that we would be using.”

Robertson says support of the CMP is crucial for the Government of Alberta to ensure this is a regional system.

“For the Government of Alberta of course it will be a regional system. The water will come to the town of Okotoks and then other municipalities could tie into it providing that they’re supportive of the CRP and the Calgary Metropolitan Plan.”

Matt Beauchamp is a Calgary writer and owner of MRB Ink.

(Calgary Regional Partnership)